OPAL – the breakfast of champions

Cooking was always going to be easy for Poh Ling Yeow, until she met netball superstar Natalie von Bertouch.

When the pair teamed up to kick off the week-long West Torrens Biggest Breakfast, retired Australian netball captain Natalie put celebrity cook Poh on the OPAL Smoothie Bike.

It’s a good thing they are helping OPAL West Torrens promote healthy eating at breakfast and the importance of the first meal of the day for optimal brain and body function.

Both Poh and Natalie are building awareness of the current SA Health OPAL (Obesity Prevention And Lifestyle) program, ‘Easy Ways to Enjoy a Healthy Brekky’.

Natalie, a qualified nutritionist, says there is a misconception that healthy is tasteless.

“We are showing people that you don’t have to add fat into everything to make food taste good,” she says.

“OPAL is about getting people to taste healthy recipe’s, so we’re focussing on how a healthy brekky can be really quick and easy.

“I know there are lots of parents who struggle with time in the morning but having some really healthy options in the cupboard, it only takes a couple of minutes to put it together and set your children and yourself up for a day of activity and concentrating.

“It’s something to encourage the kids to do and the parents to be a role model about,” Natalie says.

Poh pedals for a smoothie on the OPAL Smoothie Bike

Poh pedals for a smoothie on the OPAL Smoothie Bike

This is where OPAL is helping the South Australian community.

Nationally, obesity is on the rise and as parents, we are responsible for establishing positive eating patterns for our children in their early years.

Up to four years of age, food preferences are being hard wired into children’s brains, and things that are sweet, salty or fatty are often in the diet at this time.

As a result of time pressures or our own lack of understanding of nutrition, parents and carers have a tendency to introduce their own mature adult food preferences into their children’s diets.

This establishes food habits that are hard to break and contributes to the obesity problem.

Obesity Australia, a national think tank on the issue, predicts that by 2020, a little over six years away, 30 per cent of the Australian population will be obese and a further 30 per cent will be overweight.

The affects on our health and wellbeing will be huge with problems such as sleep disorders, heart disease, mobility and mental health issues.

But obesity also greatly impacts society as a whole, affecting productivity and forcing the burden of health care logistics and costs through the roof.

While this is a disturbing picture there is much we can do to reduce the prevalence of obesity.

Poh, a strong advocate of simple healthy eating, says it’s crucial to understand how important breakfast is.

“If you start the day off eating bacon and eggs, you’re not going to really care if you have a donut either, so it is important to start the day off eating healthily,” she says.

“As a cook, there’s so much focus on flavour, and that usually means fat, sometimes we forget the importance of eating healthily as well.

“We need to reset our palettes by eating a bit less salt and a bit less sugar but have more fibre.

“So everything in moderation.”

A healthy brekky can be really quick and easy.

A healthy brekky can be really quick and easy.

Poh is enjoying getting back to grass roots teaching and working with Natalie is as enjoyable for them as it is for the OPAL audience.

“I’m learning lots from Nat. I’ve got her little voice in my head now about fat intake. She haunts me throughout the day, in a good way,” Poh says.

Terri Lamoree, OPAL Coordinator for the City of West Torrens says that eating a healthy breakfast can have life long positive outcomes for the whole family.

“We know that increasing breakfast consumption is one of the top three health outcomes,” Terri says.

“Quitting smoking, increasing physical activity and increasing healthy breakfast consumption are the top three things people can do for their health.”

OPAL programs help parents recognise that choosing a healthy option over sugary or fatty foods is easy and benefits both themselves and their children.

But it also teaches children that healthy food is yummy and that breakfast is the king of the three meals we should eat each day.

Terri says delivering this good news is made that much easier by having popular experts to demonstrate the message in a practical way.

“In health, it’s very easy to lead with the data but people don’t respond very well when you present them with the 42 reasons why you should eat breakfast,” Terri says.

“But they do respond when people see it as an easy, fun and positive thing to do for their family and both Natalie and Poh bring it to life in a really practical and hands-on way.

“Breakfast doesn’t have to be complex.”


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